Breakin' Convention promises to bring authenticity, local artists to DCPA

Breakin Convention. Ian FlawsPhoto by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Full photo gallery at the bottom of this report. 


The international hip-hop dance theatre festival will be an opportunity to both to fill a void and open a door.

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

The circle was made up of local hip-hop poets, dancers, graffiti artists, MCs, DJs, business owners, educators, musicians, activists, promoters and parents. And when they all got done introducing (or reintroducing) themselves, acclaimed Block 1750 choreographer DeAndré Carroll looked around in wonder.

“It took somebody outside of our community to bring us all together in one room,” Carroll said to nodding heads and finger snaps. “This needs to not be the last time.”

BREAKIN CONVENTION QUOTEThe occasion was a community roundtable organized by the Denver Center to start a conversation about Breakin’ Convention, an international and local hip-hop dance theatre festival that will take over The Buell Theatre and the surrounding Denver Performing Arts Complex the weekend of Nov. 4-5.

“But this is not just about dance from around the world,” Alicia Bruce, General Manager of the DCPA’s Broadway division, promised those gathered. “It’s also about dance from around the corner.”

The major ticketed events will be two public performances in the Buell Theatre featuring four international hip-hop dance acts, one as-yet unnamed national act and four local crews who will be chosen from auditions to be held in Denver on July 6 (more info below). The Buell Theatre and surrounding spaces under the DCPA’s famed arches will be home to a free and unprecedented public hip-hop festival. “That’s where we really want to give a stage to a variety of local artists,” Bruce said, including musicians, DJs, MCs, rappers, graffiti artists and dancers. “The hope is to present a program that is engaging to both theatre and hip-hop communities – and brings them together.”

Breakin ConventionBreakin’ Convention was started in 2004 by Jonzi D of Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. The British dancer, spoken-word artist and director is the most influential advocate for hip-hop theatre in the world. He first took his creation across the pond to Charlotte two years ago. It comes to Denver in November both to fill a void and open a door here.

“We have an awesome, supportive theatre community here in Denver,” said DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg, whose primary job is to bring touring New York theatrical productions to Denver. “We try to bring a broad range of musicals and other types of entertainment here. But there are untapped opportunities out there for us to bring in some other art forms we don’t typically have down here at the Arts Complex.”

Ian Flaws, the designated local rep for the Denver gathering, made it clear that Breakin’ Convention is, indeed, all about breaking conventions. His personal priority, he said, is authenticity.

“I was really excited to be asked to do this because this will be a bigger stage and a bigger platform that we are all hungry for here in the community,” said Flaws, who runs the Bboy Factory here in Denver, which is a dance studio dedicated to the preservation of the traditional hip-hop culture. “And I think we deserve it,” he added, “because there is a ton of talent in this state.”

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

About 35 members of the local artistic community attended the conversation at the Denver Center. They represented a wide swath of organizations and crews from the Disciples of Funk to Youth on Record to the Colorado Ballet to Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.

The guests included Laurence Curry, a former DCPA Teaching Artist, movement specialist and actor who most recently performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s epic LBJ drama All the Way.

“I am so excited and thankful for this on so many levels,” said Curry, whose passion is infusing hip-hop into school curriculums. He was also part of the DCPA’s Hip Hop Jumbalaya pilot program in 2010.

He was joined by Bianca Mikahn, who last year directed the Denver Center’s How I Got Over – five celebrated slam poets weaving an interconnected story about womanhood, self-discovery and adversity. Her focus is on using urban arts to increase mental wellness and reduce youth violence. “I have been saving my life through art since … breath,” she said.

Breakin Convention.Also among the attendees were Denver rapper Soul Daddy, DCPA Board member Tina Walls (sister of one the Little Rock Nine) and Arian Noorzai, co-founder of Hype Hyena Entertainment and a contributing artist from the Muslim hip-hop community.     

The organizer was FloraJane DiRienzo, the DCPA’s Director of Strategic Projects. “The roundtable accomplished our goal of gathering the community to discuss the elements of Breakin’ Convention including auditions, festival planning and youth outreach,” she said. “But more important, it allowed us an opportunity to get to know one another, start a conversation and bring together all the amazing talent and energy of the Denver hip-hop community.”

And Ekeberg promised the conversation doesn’t end in November. Toward that end, he told the group that the DCPA’s Off-Center next March will be staging This Is Modern Art, a controversial play by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval that explores graffiti as modern art …  or urban terrorism.

Breakin’ Convention: The international lineup

  • Yeah Yellow (France) – An explosive b-boy crew from France, YY brings agility, creativity and invention to the BC stage. Bodies create orifices to dive through, and reform physical shapes with muscular alchemy. Recently performed at BOTY16.
  • Protocol (U.K.) – Lanre Malouda directs as well as performs in this duet that explores racial dynamics. Popping and tutting techniques, as well as text and physical theatre is used to present ideas that reflect the tensions in our community today.
  • Salah (France) – A living legend in the world of hip-hop dance, Salah returns to the Breakin’ Convention stage after an eight year hiatus. This consummate performer is a master popper, locker, b-boy, clown and all around entertainer. Known for his amazing battle abilities, Salah will present his theatre piece The Sickness.
  • Soweto Skeleton Movers (South Africa) – From the most notorious township on the African continent comes the Soweto Skeleton Movers. The audience highlight of Breakin’ Convention 2016 returns with a brand new show. Experts in a particular form of pantsula dance developed by Skeleton Mover pioneer Jabulani, the crew use comedic contortionism, frenetic footwork, and magical hat tricks. 

*International companies subject to change

Photo gallery: Breakin’ Convention community roundtable

Breakin' Convention in Denver

Photo gallery: About 35 members of the local artistic community attended the conversation at the Denver Center. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Breakin’ Convention local artist auditions:

Dancers, Graff Writers, DJ’s, Emcees, Rappers and Beatboxers are invited to audition from 4-10 p.m. Thursday, July 6, at the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education, 1101 13th St. Audition submission forms will be accepted from June 5-18. “This is a highly produced hip-hop dance theatre show, so we are looking for polished acts,” said Ian Flaws. Visit for more information, or to receive audition alerts.

Breakin’ Convention:
Ticket Information

Breakin’ Convention 2017 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance TheatreNov. 4-5
• The Buell Theatre and surrounding areas
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829
•Special student performance at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3

Previous NewsCenter coverage of Breakin’ Convention:
Breakin’ Convention to kick off Denver Arts Week in November

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